A construction worker is chipping a trash chute hole in the floor, and falls through to the level below. A painter-contractor working on a transmission tower unhooks his safety lanyard for just long enough to shift position and plummets 80 feet. Improperly secured safety scaffolding partially gives way and an unharnessed worker lands in the hospital. These scenarios are sadly not isolated events, or “once in a lifetime” accidents. “Falls from elevation” make up about a third of all construction worker fatalities. These deadly accidents are largely preventable. And OSHA is leading the way to ensuring we are not only aware, we are empowered to make a change; for the safety of everyone.
OSHA holds the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction every May. Last year, more than 2.5 million workers took a break from their job to participate in toolbox talks on fall prevention, performing safety equipment inspections, developing rescue plans, discussing job-specific hazards, and creating awareness of the importance of workplace safety. Here are 4 tips to hosting a successful stand-down:
- Cover the basics. The logical place to start in reducing your chances of workplace falls is by creating awareness. Go over the rules and guidelines for preventing falls. No matter how many times you’ve gone over it already, this time it may just stick.
- Review your current safety procedures. Take a good hard look at the procedures you have in place. What has been working for you? Is there anything that could be improved? Ask for feedback from the group as well.
- Foster involvement. A successful stand-down is not one sided; everyone needs to be involved. Keep the audience fully engaged by creating activities and asking questions. OSHA suggests that “hands-on exercises (a worksite walkaround, equipment checks, etc.) can increase retention.” Some more ideas to foster involvement include:
- Ask attendees questions about potential fall hazards on the current work site
- Ask attendees to share experiences they’ve had, or have witnessed that illustrate how easily and quickly falls occur
- Bring up a recent news story related to a construction accident involving a fall and use it to open the subject––which helps attendees focus on the project
- Consider using the OSHA Prevention Videos to augment training.
- Don’t “fall” short. Your safety stand-down is meant to highlight and remind everyone in the company about the importance of safety in the workplace. But it shouldn’t end when the week is over. Continue to build awareness throughout the year. Besides periodic safety meetings where you highlight particular fall dangers related to each job site, regular training is also important. OSHA recommends keeping training sessions short and easy to follow and encourage participation with questions and discussions.
There’s still work to be done.
Two of the top five OSHA violations weigh heavily on the construction industry and the increasing fines for those violations remind us that there is work still left to accomplish. But with knowledge, training, and continual awareness, any construction business has a much better chance of being a safe place to work.
For more tips on hosting a successful stand-down, check out this article by the U.S. Department of Labor.